When I was a full-time erotic masseuse, my immigration status meant that, for the most part, I was not able to find regular employment. I spent more years than I care to remember giving sensual massages to corporate types during their lunch breaks, or whenever the urge overcame them. During that time, I worked exclusively from home, and I scheduled my own hours. I know that a lot of sex workers love the freedom that sex work gives them, but I, on the other hand, have come to realize how important it is for me to have a regular routine. I might not like going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting up insanely early to go work for the Man, but, as somebody who suffers from depression and anxiety, I need that grounding. I also like seeing people at the office, and being able to socialize and connect with them. I missed out on all of that when I was an erotic masseuse and, of course, when I actually did meet people, there was an immediate barrier between us because I certainly couldn’t tell them what I did for a living. My time as a full-time sex worker was a period of immense loneliness, and disconnection.
It has occurred to me recently, however, that there is a huge difference between enjoying seeing my colleagues (because, well, I’m human – and we’re social animals) and actually liking these same people. There are, of course, some nice, decent people in my office, but most people there are either mind-numbingly dull or – much worse!- backstabbing, fucked-up assholes. In fact, I have realized that for all of my self-identification as “somebody with mental health issues”, I am actually a damn sight healthier than many of the so-called healthy people around me. I may have my flaws, but I am at least genuine, sincere and honest. I would never intentionally hurt another person with my words or actions. Despite being thirty-five fucking years old, it still blows my naive mind that there are people out there who would do that in a heartbeat. I just don’t get it.
I have this one colleague, for example, who has a disturbing fetish for anything involving young Japanese women. He has also told me all about his nightly internet activities with online dommes while his wife and kids are sleeping. The fact that he told me this information about himself should probably have alarmed me, but I guess at first I stupidly felt “special” that he had chosen me as his work confidant. And, honestly, there are a lot of people out there with strange sexual quirks but it doesn’t make them bad people. Besides this one happens to be an Irish Catholic heritage-wise, and I pretty much assume that all Catholics are sexually screwed up.
Apart from his odd sexual confessions, there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary about this guy. In fact, I felt comfortable enough around him to open up about my own troubles – the divorce, my mental health problems, the loneliness I sometimes felt. He’s a chubby guy in his mid-forties with a friendly, smiling face who looks like he would be somebody’s favourite uncle so he has an air about him that almost invites you to open up to him. In fact, I’m going to refer to him from now on as “Mr. Avuncular”.
There came a day, though, when I realized that the things he said to me were somewhat passive aggressive and just generally “off”. Not “off” in a sexual way, but “off” in a “oh-fuck-I’m-now-seeing-an-entire-other-side-to-this-person-and-I-don’t-like-it” way. One time he yelled at a colleague and me for laughing at something while he was on the phone with an important customer. That in itself isn’t a big deal – when you work with the same people 8 hours each day, 5 days a week, you are bound to get mad at each other at some point. No, it was that when he yelled at us with such anger and contempt in his face I realized I’d finally seen the true him. The witty, self-deprecating “i’m a friendly chubby guy” act he puts on is exactly that – an act. I think it hides something much, much darker and I do not want to know what that is.
Recently this guy has distanced himself from me for no discernible reason. If I wasn’t codependent, I would probably just have thought “Oh, fuck him” and would have forgotten all about him, but my subconscious reacts badly to any form of rejection or what I perceive as abandonment. By this point, I didn’t care for him anymore, but that didn’t stop me trying to chat with him from time to time via the office chat system. I suppose I did that so I could feel that he still liked me, and that I “matter”. Two Sundays ago, I was incredibly sleep-deprived, and hungover, and, since it was the week before my divorce was finalized, I was feeling particularly depressed and hopeless. I told him how I was especially upset by the comments a friend had made at the party the night before about how it’s “weird” I have so many cats, and I sorta joked (actually genuinely worried deep-down) that I was going to end up as a crazy cat lady. Here’s what the “kindly” and “helpful” Mr. Avuncular had to say to that via chat after I had expressed very clearly that I was absolutely not going to give up my pets to find a stupid boyfriend:
Mr. Avuncular: I’m sorry. I was hoping to persuade you that if you didn’t want to be alone you could have “giving them up” as an option. But clearly it isn’t one. You’re going to have to find someone very, very special to accept you with all of your cats into their lives.
Petrichor:You’re not really cheering me up here.
Mr. Avuncular: I truly hope you do. You can be cheered up knowing that you’ll always have your cats. They make you happier than a guy would. And that’s alright! If you can accept that, then you can be happy.
Despite my warped, codependent brain, I wasn’t far gone enough not to notice that there was something incredibly weird about that little exchange. He was clearly fucking with me in some sort of strange passive-aggressive, manipulative way – pretending to dispense “advice” and be my friend when really he was trying to hurt me. And I have no idea why. And I find it especially troubling that he would try to hurt somebody he knows was going through a divorce and who freely admits to being depressed. It’s almost sadistic. Maybe you don’t pick up any of that from the chat I posted above but, believe me, all my intuition tells me I am right.
These are the kind of people I work with. I have realized too late that I set myself up for these kind of experiences because I am far too trusting, and let people into my life who have no business being there, and tell them things they have no business knowing. Really there were two very unhealthy people involved in the above chat exchange – Mr. Avuncular, for obvious reasons, and me, for recognizing that people are unsafe but still keeping them nearby because I want them to like me. I also share inappropriate things with inappropriate people. I was beating myself up about that before writing this post (because, c’mon, oversharers are embarrassing!) but, you know what? It’s probably inevitable that I do that given that I am living in a foreign country by myself with no contact with my family. Looking for a connection with other people is intensely human, and intensely normal. I just need to make sure that I spend more time with my real friends outside of work, so that I don’t get lonely, and then end up getting too close to people at work.
My company has started allowing some of its employees to work from home if they want to. I dread the feeling of social isolation I know from my massage days that I would get if I stayed at home all day, but, on the other hand, I hate the fake and meaningless work interactions i have. Why not work from home so, at the very least, my cats and dogs will have me all to themselves?
Have any of you lot ever worked from home? If so, did you like it?